What is climate change?. By burning fossil fuels and other activities, humans are creating a thick blanket of greenhouse gases around the Earth. This blanket of gases is trapping heat from the sun and warming up the planet. This is called climate change.
By burning fossil fuels and other activities, humans are creating a thick blanket of greenhouse gases around the Earth. This blanket of gases is trapping heat from the sun and warming up the planet. This is called climate change.
Watch animation: What is climate change? (2 min 37 sec)
impacts on the Great Barrier Reef
Which future will we choose?
Climate change is changing our Reef. If carbon dioxide continues to rise, the Great Barrier Reef could look very different. It is up to us to determine what the Reef’s future will be.
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Watch animation: Impacts of climate change (2 min 36 sec)
Our warming seas
Sea temperature increases of just a couple degrees can cause corals to bleach and die. Without corals, the future of reefs and the marine life they harbour is at risk.
Watch animation: Coral bleaching 1 (2 min 41 sec) or Coral bleaching 2 (2 min 38 sec)
One-third of the carbon dioxide we produce ends up in the ocean. When carbon dioxide is mixed with water it creates carbonic acid. Human activities are making the oceans more acidic than they have been in hundreds of thousands of years.
More acidic oceans will mean:
Corals and animals with calcium shells and skeletons may grow slower (coral growth on the Great Barrier Reef has already declined 14 per cent since 1990)
Shells and corals may become more brittle and breakable
Watch animation: Ocean acidification (1 min 36 sec)
living history books of the seas
Unlocking climate secrets from corals
Long-lived corals growing on the Great Barrier Reef are used to help construct global climate records.
Core samples from corals up to 400 years old show that:
temperatures have warmed
rainfall has become more variable and coral growth has declined
human land use has increased the sediment carried out to the Reef.
Climate change is impacting marine animals and many fish species will be affected.
Fish that live in corals or anemones could lose their homes.
Coral-eating fish could lose their food supplies.
Baby fish may not be able to find their way home as changing ocean chemistry interrupts their senses.
Sharks and fish could lose nursery habitat due to sea level rise.
Increasing temperatures are changing the proportion of boys and girls in sea turtle families.
As temperatures rise, more female hatchlings are born leading to an unbalanced population.
If temperatures get too high, the fragile eggs won’t hatch at all.
Signs of decline
Climate change has been blamed for dramatic declines in seabird populations on the Great Barrier Reef and with tens of thousands of seabirds failing to breed due to food shortages caused by warming waters.
As climate change warms coastal waters, fish move further away trying to find cooler water and seabirds have difficulty finding food.
Sometimes seabirds can’t find enough fish to feed their chicks and in cases of extreme weather, none of the chicks survive.
Just as a healthy person is better able to cope with an illness, a healthy reef is better able to cope with the impacts of climate change.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is working with schools, tourism operators, Traditional Owners, government and industry to ensure the Reef is as healthy as possible.
Everyone can help keep our Reef healthy by:
Using less energy
Reducing, reusing and recycling
Disposing of waste properly
Planting native trees and vegetation
Keeping drains free from chemicals and rubbish
Encouraging others to adopt reef-friendly practices.